Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Executive Function, Emotion Regulation, and Social Problem Solving, in Adolescence and Early Adulthood
Research to date on social problem solving typically focuses on elementary school aged children. However, adolescents and young adults may experience more novel and emotionally complex social conflicts that require different skills to navigate them successfully. Previous research has highlighted executive function (EF) and emotion regulation as possible skills that help with social problem solving. The current study examined the potential relation between EF, emotion regulation, and social problem solving. The sample consisted of 174 participants with a mean age of 19.60 years. Results showed that the shifting component of EF was associated with being able to take different perspectives when coming up with a solution for a social conflict involving a romantic partner. Additionally, emotion regulation was associate with perspective taking in the overall social problem solving process with a romantic partner. These results suggest that both EF and emotion regulation are involved in the ability to take different perspectives during a social conflict in this age range. Author Keywords: Emotion Regulation, Executive Function, Social Problem Solving
First Time…A Second Time
The purpose of the current study was to explore virginity loss experiences in lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (LGB), specifically those who have had both a sexual experience with a member of a different sex and a member of the same sex. This phenomenon is what the current study is defining as second virginity loss. Participants consisted of 645 LGB self-identified individuals, the sample was approximately half women (53%) and ages ranged from 18-65. Further, six semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain a clearer understanding of LGB individuals virginity loss experiences. Of the sample, approximately 60% of each sexual orientation reported having two sexual experiences they equated with virginity loss, one with a member of a different sex, and one with a member of the same sex. Analyses of both the qualitative and quantitative data were conducted in an attempt to gain an understanding in three main areas: (1) definitions of virginity loss, (2) virginity beliefs, and (3) motivations. It was found that LGB individuals continue to hold heteronormative definitions of virginity loss, i.e. penile-vaginal intercourse, though these definitions were found to be transitional in nature. LGB individuals also seem to hold more gift related beliefs toward their same-sex experience and more stigma related beliefs toward their different sex experience, however, as shown by previous research (Carpenter, 2001, 2002), most LGB individuals highly endorsed process beliefs. Finally, motivations for virginity loss were found to be consistent with two main themes: validation and drive. Overall, this research suggests that the LGB community has a fairly complicated relationship with virginity but certainly do not feel exempt from the concept or the pressures attached. The current study is the first to explore the phenomenon of second virginity loss in LGB individuals and should be used as a foundation for future research in both first sexual experience and LGB fields to build upon. Author Keywords: first sexual experience, LGB, mixed-methods, second virginity loss, virginity
Talking it out
The literature to date that investigates the development of social perspective taking in children primarily focuses on preschool aged children. These studies provide evidence that implicates language as being crucial for social perspective taking in young children but less is known about the importance of language to social perspective taking during middle childhood and early adolescence. The current study uses Selman's theory of socio-cognitive development to investigate the maturation of social perspective taking and the importance of language to social problem solving in 8 year olds (n = 111) and 12 year olds (n = 112). Analysis of variance and scalogram analysis shows a developmental progression of social perspective taking across the social problem solving process. Children may be able to demonstrate reciprocal perspective taking when generating strategies before they are able to demonstrate reciprocal perspective taking for other steps of social problem solving. Flexibility in interpersonal orientation is shown to be a predictor of social problem solving ability. Correlations and multiple regression analysis demonstrate that language is important to overall social problem solving but that the role of semantic and syntactic language may differ at age 8 compared to age 12. Author Keywords: interpersonal orientation, language, Selman, social cognition, social perspective taking, social problem solving
We investigated whether hand-proximity effects arise from the recruitment of visual-tactile bimodal cells. In Experiment 1, we executed right-hand open-loop reaching movements to targets, presented either near or far from the resting left-hand, and after applying repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to suppress neuronal activity in the PMd and AIP, in Experiment 2. Results from Experiment 1, indicated that near-hand targets improved accuracy and reduced variability. In Experiment 2, suppressing PMd showed similar near-hand effects as above. In contrast, applying rTMS to AIP disrupted the representation of target location, indicating less accuracy and greater error. Near-hand proximity effects possibly arise from the recruitment of visual-tactile bimodal cells within the human AIP. Author Keywords: anterior intraparietal sulcus, peripersonal space, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), , rTMS, anterior intraparietal sulcus, AIP., visual-tactile bimodal neurons
Comparing Two Tablet-Based Visuomotor Tasks to Standard Laboratory Versions
The assessment of visuomotor function can provide important information about neurological status. Several visuomotor tasks exist for testing in the laboratory, although attempts to make these tests portable to allow quick and reliable assessment have been limited. We developed an assessment tool using two laboratory visuomotor tests as a tablet application: the double-step task, and an interception task. Performance was assessed by measuring the participants’ ability to reach toward unpredictably moving targets in each task. Response patterns were compared across equipment types to determine if participants were responding similarly to the moving targets in the standard laboratory and the tablet version of the tasks. On the double-step task, participants adjusted to the displaced target adequately in both the lab and tablet versions. On the interception task, participants intercepted non-accelerating targets, and performed worse on accelerating targets in both versions of the task. These findings suggest that the tablet version of these tasks assesses similar visuomotor processing as the respective laboratory version. Author Keywords: concussion assessment, double-step task, interception task, visuomotor processing, visuomotor system
Dreams that occur in bereavement have been mainly overlooked in the psychological literature. This study focuses on the most memorable dreams of the bereaved that contain imagery of the deceased. There were 52 participants who completed the study via email. The main goal of the study was to investigate the occurrence of common themes in the dreams that have the deceased as a character. It was hypothesized that the most memorable dreams are memorable because they positively influenced the dreamers waking life grief process, which was partially supported. Furthermore, it was expected that that the most memorable dreams will have a greater frequency of positive elements and a lower frequency of negative elements than the normative data on dreams, which was partially supported. These findings support past research on dreaming of the deceased and expand the impact that these types of dreams can have on the grief process. Author Keywords: bereavement, deceased imagery, dream content, dreams, grief
Asserting sexual (dis)interest
Sexual assertiveness encompasses skills in refusing unwanted sexual situations and bringing about wanted sexual situations. Measures of sexual assertiveness typically assess both refusal and initiation aspects, yet there is a dearth of research examining these skills in relation to one another. The present study examined the relationship between these skillsets in women, exploring predictors of each. Initiation and refusal assertiveness were moderately correlated. Additionally, the relationship between them was not entirely explained by general assertiveness, indicating that there is something unique to assertiveness in the sexual context. Committed relationship context and erotophilic disposition specifically predicted initiation assertiveness. Less endorsement of the sexual double standard and fewer approach motivations for engaging in unwanted sex specifically predicted refusal assertiveness. Few differences emerged in predictors of assertiveness types when comparing sexual orientation groups, yet non-heterosexual women reported slightly lower levels of refusal assertiveness. Implications for sexual education, therapy, and future research are discussed. Author Keywords: sexual assertiveness, sexual autonomy, sexual compliance, sexual double standard, sexual satisfaction, sexual self-disclosure
Thinking High When Feeling Shy
Social anxiety often co-occurs with substance use disorders – various psychological variables, contextual factors, and implicit cognitions may help explain their relationship. This thesis examined whether social anxiety and psychological variables (jointly and independently) helped predict substance use and related problems. It also explored whether social anxiety group membership helped predict implicit cannabis-sedation associations and substance use desirability. A sample of undergraduate student volunteers (N = 65) completed a computer task, questionnaires with anxiety-provoking vignettes, and online questionnaires. Results indicate that fear of negative evaluation and anxiety sensitivity are important predictors of alcohol and cannabis (respectively) use and problems. Social anxiety group was related to increased cannabis desirability in performance contexts. No significant implicit cannabis-sedation associations were identified. Our findings highlight the importance of certain variables in social anxiety and substance use relationships, and considering contextual factors when assessing substance desirability. It also provides preliminary evidence of a novel implicit cannabis-sedation measure. Author Keywords: Coping, Emotion, Implicit Cognition, Social Anxiety, Substance Use
Balance is key
While preferences for symmetry are seemingly universal, they can be seen at their most extreme among individuals high in trait incompleteness. As yet, it is unclear why incompleteness yields heightened symmetry preferences. Summerfeldt et al. (2015) speculated that individuals high in incompleteness may develop heightened preferences for symmetry due to its greater perceptual fluency. Accordingly, the aim of the present set of three experiments was to examine this relationship. Implicit preferences for symmetry were measured using a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) reported by Makin et al. (2012). Experiments 1 (N = 24) and 2 (N = 24) examined whether the general implicit preferences for symmetry and influence of perceptual fluency reported by Makin et al. (2012) extended to a within-subjects design. Experiment 3 (N = 86) examined whether trait incompleteness is related to greater implicit preferences for symmetric stimuli, and whether perceptual fluency affects this association. Results showed that incompleteness and implicit preferences were related, and that incompleteness-related differences in preferences were eliminated when the patterns were equally perceptually fluent, supporting the idea that incompleteness-related preferences for symmetry are linked to perceptual fluency. Implications of these findings are discussed. Author Keywords:
Sexting and Satisfaction
Sexting was explored in relation to cohabitation status, general and sexual communication, as well as the anxious and avoidant dimensions of attachment. The present study was focused the distinction between lifetime and recent sexting, in an attempt to more accurately assess the relationships between the examined factors and sexting behaviours. Individuals in long-distance relationships were more likely to report recently sexting and engaged more frequently than those in cohabitating relationships, but did not differ in their levels of sexual satisfaction. Recent sexters reported higher levels of sexual communication compared to lifetime sexters, and sexual communication was positively, though weakly, correlated with sexting frequency. The present study was unable to support a predictive relationship between recent sexting and levels of attachment anxiety or avoidance. These results highlight the importance of exploring the context in which sexting occurs, as well as distinguishing between lifetime and recent sexters in future sexting research. Author Keywords: Attachment, Long Distance Relationship, Recent Sexting, Satisfaction, Sexting, Sexual Communication
Help Wanted
The purpose of this thesis was to explore the role of attachment in university students’ help-seeking process using both a cross-sectional and mixed methods study. In the cross-sectional study, I explored whether help-seeking attitudes mediated the relationship between attachment and help-seeking behaviour. As expected, the relationship between secure and preoccupied attachment and greater help-seeking behaviour from both informal and self-help sources was partially mediated by positive attitudes toward seeking non-professional personal help. However, unexpectedly, attitudes toward professional psychological help did not mediate the relationship between attachment and formal help-seeking behaviour. In the mixed-methods study, secure students reported positive help-seeking experiences and discussed facilitators of help-seeking. On the other hand, fearful and dismissing students reported more negative help-seeking experiences and discussed barriers to help-seeking. Discussion of findings focus on how university staff can use attachment theory to develop interventions to increase student help-seeking. Author Keywords: Attachment, attitudes, Help-seeking, Relationships, Transitions, University students
Near-Hand Effects and Recruitment of Visual-Tactile Bimodal Cells
Near-hand benefits are seen when individuals are able to process targets more quickly, accurately, and with greater precision when a hand is placed near, rather than far from a target. One possibility is that near-hand stimuli recruit visual-tactile bimodal cells. Research reports that placing a hand near a target delayed immediate saccade onset and speeded delayed saccade onset. Study 1 examined saccade onset to targets appearing near a real hand, a realistic fake hand, or a non-hand visual cue. Immediate saccades were facilitated and delayed saccades were slowed with a real hand in the display, in comparison to a fake hand and no-hand. To establish the link between near-hand effects and bimodal cells, Study 2 used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to depress cortical activity in PMd. RTMS did not induce a reversal of interference induced by near-hand, congruent targets. However, a reversal of the hand effect was found in the stimulation group; a real hand in the display may delay immediate saccades and improve delayed saccades post-stimulation. This finding may double dissociate the effect of the real hand from the fake hand and may be inconsistent with the hypothesis that the hand is attracting attention. Author Keywords: multisensory integration, near-hand effects, PMd, premotor cortex, rTMS, visual-tactile bimodal neurons


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